Potato Tower Update

Ya’ll…I think this latest gardening endeavor is actually going to be successful!

Our Yukon Gold potato vines are growing and thriving. Austin was hit with 5 straight days of rain last week and all of our plants are very grateful for the moisture.

We built this potato tower back in January and planted 10 seed potatoes, which have now developed into some very tall potato vines. I added some more straw over the weekend and continued piling up soil around the vines.

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The potato tower is growing a little bit higher with new straw and soil.

Anyway – I think we’ll see some flowers soon, which means I should be able to harvest a few potatoes. I’m sooo excited. I see some potato, egg, & cheese breakfast tacos in our future.

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A view from the top

I think the vines will probably begin to die back toward the end of April, or early May and we can pull up all the potatoes at that point. Until then… a few facts about Yukon Gold Potatoes:

  • This variety was developed in Canada and released to the public in 1980
  • Early marketing campaigns described them as the “the potato with the butter already in it”.
  • Unlike other potatoes, Yukon Gold potatoes can stand up to both dry heat and wet heat cooking methods, making them perfect for boiling, baking, or pan frying.

One Yukon Gold potato also contains 50% of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, and 15% of your daily requirement for Iron. Nutritious and delicous!

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Putting the chickens to work

We got our chickens for the sole purpose of enjoying some fresh eggs from happy backyard chickens. I’m convinced that the nutritional differences between eggs from chickens that forage naturally versus those in a commercial factory farm setting justify the extra work that comes along with caring for chickens. All day long.

But, what if the chickens could pull their weight by doing more than just laying eggs?

Chickens naturally love scratching around in the dirt looking for delicious worms and grubs. If you can harness this energy – it can be used in a constructive manner. If left to their own devices, chickens generally become major nuisances, preferring to tear up all the mulch around your roses, fruit trees, and garden beds.

What to focus this massive amount of destructive chicken energy on? THE COMPOST!

Steven loves working outdoors, but for some reason, avoids the compost bin like the plague. Our compost bin was built over a year ago and has literally only been turned once – and that was a partial job that was interrupted by mouse. Luckily, chickens are not scared of mice like husbands.

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Chickens at work in the compost bin. Ethel is supervising.
We opened up the bin and placed a few chickens inside and they went to work immediately! I’ve never seen chickens so excited without a treat bag nearby. They found so many worms, I’m afraid our worm population may need to be replenished.

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Isn’t there a song somewhere about eating worms?
Anyway – Steven is happy that his job of turning the compost bin has been reassigned. The chickens are happy to find a source of fresh worms. And the mouse…well, I’ve never actually laid eyes on it. Steven swears it’s living in our compost, but I have my doubts 😉

Camellias and Peach Blossoms

There’s no doubt about it – summer is my favorite time of year. I love the long days and warm nights, best enjoyed with a cold beer. And fireflies – there’s something magical about sitting outside as the sun is setting and watching fireflies dance across the night.

Summer feels closer than ever now – we’re starting to see blooms on the peach trees and the bees are loving it.

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Belle of Georgia peach tree. One of three in our mini-orchard.

Our Camellia is also in full bloom and is gorgeous. Camellias can be tricky to grow here in Central Texas. We tend to have high levels of alkalinity in our soil and Camellias thrive in a more acidic environment. Ours lived in a container for years but eventually became root bound and stopped blooming, so we decided to try to amend our soil and plant it in the ground. As you can see – it’s a pretty happy little plant now. It gets about an hour, maybe 2, of direct sunlight a day in our courtyard and does really well as long as it gets watered regularly and fertilized each year.

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Camellia Japonica in bloom.

Our garden is still producing from the cole crops we planted in the fall. We’ve harvested the kale several times to add to omelets and salads, and we’ve had really good luck with broccoli this year.

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Looks like I’ll be cooking some broccoli for dinner tonight – Yum!

The brussels sprouts haven’t been quite as easy. I’ve been watering those suckers for months and the sprouts are still tiny – it seems like we’re still months away from being able to harvest them.

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Red Russian Kale & Jade Cross Brussels Sprouts

Urban farming at it’s best!

Goodbye Greta – an Era has Ended

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s – Mark Twain

Greta, although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things, like whether or not you should be allowed to stand on my kitchen table…you were a very loving and loyal dog and you will be missed. Read more about Greta’s shenanigans here.

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Going for a ride in the new truck

I love you for loving my husband so completely. You waited by the door for hours every time he left the house and you loved nothing more than simply sitting with him, waiting for a scratch on the head. You loved eating cat food, going on walks, having your paw held in someone’s hand, getting into the trash and looking out the window.

You hated only 3 things in life: crates, thunder, and being away from Steven.

Greta sharing her dog bed with her best friend Pearl.
Greta sharing her dog bed with her best friend Pearl.

Although the past few months were rough – and heart disease slowed you down, I truly believe you are at peace now. You shared a lifetime of memories with my sweet husband and you won’t be forgotten. Just this morning, after finding the cat food bowls had been knocked over and emptied during the night, I thought of you and smiled.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Omelet

I am by no means what anyone would describe as a good cook – but I try. And more importantly, I actually enjoy cooking for the most part. Cutting back on processed food has been an important goal for me in 2016. I’ve learned so much about nutrition in the past year and I absolutely see the benefits that come from eating fresh food – as close to it’s natural state as possible.

This weekend – I made one of my favorite dishes and I thought I would share the recipe with you. This dish is super easy and takes less than 10 minutes to prep and cook.

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Spinach and Goat Cheese Omelet

3 eggs

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan over a medium high flame.

SIDE NOTE: Texas Hill Country Olive Co. makes a jalapeno infused olive oil that I tend to overuse in everything I cook because it’s just that delicious. We stumbled onto it after a visit to the farmers market last weekend and I am obsessed. You can find it here.

While the olive oil is heating up, break the eggs into a bowl and scramble lightly with a fork. The goal is a uniform color and texture.

Pour the eggs into the pan, covering the entire bottom of the pan with the eggs. Cook over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Once the yolk mixture is cooked on the edges and is slightly runny in the center, flip your omelet. It’s best to do this quickly and with a large spatula.

Add the spinach and goat cheese to cover 1/2 of omelet. Cook 1 minute and then fold the empty omelet side over your spinach and goat cheese. Reduce the heat and let the omelet cook for another 1-2 minutes before plating. Sprinkle with the cheddar, add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

3 reasons to drop cable – and 1 BIG reason not to

Here’s the thing about television – it’s been around for decades and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Watching TV is what we Americans do. We come home from work, turn on the TV and it entertains our children. It fills the silences that we are too exhausted to fill with conversation. It connects us to world events, the latest local news, and reunites us with our favorite sitcom characters.

I’m not knocking TV – I enjoy it as much as anyone else. I just think we watch too much. Numerous studies have documented the impact that TV has on our health – all too often through our waistlines.

3 months ago – after many discussions, my husband and I decided that we should get rid of cable. At the time it was because I didn’t think it was worth the $150/mo that we were paying for it. 3 months later – I have a different perspective. Here’s what happens when you get rid of your cable TV:

1- You fill your time at home with more valuable activities.

Watching TV was never my favorite activity, but it was easy and effortless and I find now that it took up time that I could have been devoting to things I actually do get a lot of enjoyment out of. I read more now than I ever have. It’s become my go-to way to fill free time and I love it. Reading is peaceful and I very much enjoy the quiet time after a long day in the office.  I’m also exploring new hobbies – I think I’m going to take up knitting next. It can’t be that hard right?

2 – You find other ways to fill the silence.

I talk to my husband more. Real conversations about our future, our hopes and dreams. We stay at the dinner table, drinking wine, long after we’ve finished eating. We also enjoy listening to music more. We sometimes fight over who controls the music – but I love that he exposes me to new bands and music, and I hope that I do the same for him.

3 – You save $$$ 

I mentioned our cable bill of $150/mo earlier. I don’t think this is all that uncommon – we had all the movie channels and on top of that were paying for Netflix and Amazon Prime as well. We haven’t cut out TV entirely, so we still have Netflix and Amazon Prime and we also added a subscription to HBO Now and Showtime. Even doing so, we are saving over $100 each month!

Do I miss cable? Sometimes. And to be completely honest – there is one thing I must warn you about:

1- Sports

I am a diehard UGA fan. This, I did not take into consideration when cancelling cable in the middle of college football season. Not my smartest moment.

Basically – you just need to find a restaurant or bar nearby or go to a friends house, because you can not watch NCAA football without a cable subscription.

Check out my new dish-free roof:

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We got these new string lights for Christmas from The Parents – loving them so far!

Goodbye 2015 and hello…strawberries?

So I’m thinking that Central Texas has decided that we won’t be participating in winter this year. Outside of one VERY brief cold spell in December, it hasn’t dropped below freezing at all. In fact, just yesterday I was painting the chicken coop and sweating in the 70 degree sunny weather.

Needless to say – all of this weather nonsense has my plants very confused. My avocado tree is blooming, so is my lime tree, and my Sequoia strawberries must believe it’s June because they’ve decided to bear some fruit. I guess I’ll get on board with this since there’s not much I can do to stop it. Strawberry jam is coming soon!

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I can’t wait to eat these strawberries – they look super tasty!
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Can you tell I’m excited for strawberries?

In addition to strawberries – we are hoping to harvest and enjoy some Yukon Gold potatoes very shortly as well. We purchased some seed potatoes this weekend and constructed a quick and easy potato tower to save some space in our raised beds. We constructed ours using some rebar stakes and chicken wire – super easy and only about 3 feet high. Then we lined the outside with some straw, filled the interior with potting soil, and planted our 10 seed potatoes. According to the infinite wisdom I’ve obtained from Google – this should give us 60 – 100 potatoes in just a few months!

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Inside the potato tower
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All along the potato tower – no reason to get excited.

Any tips/tricks out there for growing potatoes?